As we enter our third summer living with COVID-19, we all remain hopeful that we continue the steady progress we have made with getting back to the activities and gatherings we all enjoy.
Over the past few months, we have seen widespread transmission of COVID-19 across our communities with the Omicron variants. It has been generally less severe, requiring less hospitalization however, prolonged symptoms may persist in some individuals. We are very grateful that the widespread use of vaccines has significantly blunted the full impact of COVID illness. There has been a slow but steady decline in the number of individuals requiring hospitalization and intensive care services across the province.
Our recovery from this sixth pandemic wave has followed a similar slow and steady path, which is necessary to continue to protect those most vulnerable in our community. Although the Couchiching region continues to see improvement on many of the provincial indicators reported, we are lagging behind the provincial average. For example, the percent positivity at our Couchiching testing centre has improved to 13-20% whereas the provincial average has dropped to 9-11% in the same timeframe. We continue to see hospitalized patients with OSMH, most recently reporting 12 individuals with active COVID-19 infection, which continues to have significant implications on our inpatient capacity. Although improved, the ongoing community transmission is still affecting our team, making them unable to work for a period of time.
With that in mind, the OSMH team continues to balance the desire to reopen more broadly, including allowing more visitors into the hospital, with the need to limit further transmission. We continue to re-evaluate these and many other factors in deciding how and when to move forwards.
A complicating factor is the current impact of COVID isn’t necessarily the same across the province or even in all regions of Simcoe Muskoka. Different communities are experiencing different rates of COVID-19 burden as evidenced by wastewater studies across our region. So as the healthcare system continues to work together to move in a similar direction, the timing may be slightly different based on local circumstances.
I remain optimistic that we will all arrive at a similar place this summer, hoping COVID burden will drop to the point that all services and sectors can reopen safely. We all deserve a bit of a break.
Looking forwards, there is still more work to be done. Planning is well underway for the predictable seasonal increase in hospital activity as cottage season ramps up again and our population grows. It is our privilege to serve this thriving community and it is also our challenge to keep pace with the growth. Your patience is appreciated as our team is doing their best to provide excellent, compassionate care.
It remains unclear what the Fall has in store. Until then, let’s stick to what we know works, following the appropriate public health protections, including taking advantage of the full series of vaccination to the extent we are eligible.
Carmine Stumpo, President & CEO
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital